Hearts And Minds

Entry by: Tauren

4th November 2016
5:32 a.m. Sunday November 6th

“Turn right at the next intersection,” the automated female voice said.
Phil swung the rig a little to the left so the eighteen wheeler could make the turn comfortably, a taxi coming the other way swerved, beeping at him as he did, even at this early hour there was a fair bit of traffic on the streets. As he straightened out he glanced in his mirror, seeing the nose of Bill`s rig entering the turn.

“You will reach your destination in seven hundred metres,” the voice intoned, he slowed to twenty miles an hour.

“You have reached your destination,” the sat nav said, to the accompaniment of loud hissing as he applied his brakes, stopping the rig in the middle of the road. He was reaching to turn the engine off when the red celphone on the seat beside him began to ring, “Brriinng- Brriinng,” its ringtone mimicking an old landline. On the second ring, he pulled the keys from the ignition and reached for the phone.

9:18 p.m. the previous evening.
“Who the hell can that be at this hour?” Phil asked, glancing towards the hall.
“Want me to pause it?” Trish asked, pointing the remote at the DVD player.
“Nah,” he said, levering himself out of the sofa, grunting as he did, thinking as he always did in that moment that he really needed to join a gym or worse, go on a diet. On the T.V. Elsa had just finished building her ice castle, as far as Phil was concerned once the “Let it go” song was done the film went downhill fast, though he never said that in earshot of his daughters, both of them sat on the floor, entranced by the film.

When he flicked on the porch light he saw two men in black suits, their backs to him, deep in conversation. Christ, he thought, that’s all I need, a pair of Goddamn Witnesses at this time of night.
“Look fellas I…” he began as he opened the door. The men turned, both were wearing opaque latex masks, and as Phil opened his mouth in alarm, possibly to shout; the one on the left , the taller of the two, put one finger to his lips, said “Sshuusshhh,” raising a pistol, pointing it at Phil`s head.
Phil`s eyes widened, staring at the absurdly large silencer on the end of the gun`s barrel, terror paralysing his mind, rendering him unable to think. The gunman flicked the gun twice, the universal signal, as established by the cinema, to back up; Phil complied. As he did the men followed and two more stepped out of the dark, masked like their companions, but wearing navy boilersuits, they too were armed, “Living room,” the taller man said in a whisper.

“Who was it honey?” Trish asked, turning her head slightly, but not taking her eyes from the screen as they filed into the room, only looking around when he didn’t answer.
“Oh Sweet Jesus!” she gasped, her hand flying to her mouth when she saw the four strangers.
The only one who had spoken thus far shoved Phil ahead of him hard enough to make him grab the sofa to steady himself, the twins, sitting on the floor, twisted around to see what all the commotion was about, gaping at the sight of the strangers and the guns.

“We don’t got no money,” Phil said, hoping they`d gotten the wrong house.
“We`re not here for money, we`re here for the truck,” the man said, the other three still hadn’t uttered a sound. He saw Phil glance to his right, his iphone sat on a nightstand.
“Ah-ah-ah,” he said, picking it up, then dropping it on the carpet stamping it with his heel; the phone making a sizzling-cracking sound as he ground it under his heel. “The truck?” he said.
“The keys are-are in my jacket,” Phil said, pointing towards the back hall.

The man jerked the gun in that direction, and Phil obeyed, picking his coat off the peg, reaching into a pocket, “Wait!” the gunman said. He took the jacket from Phil`s unresisting hands, turning out the pockets, finding nothing but a ring of keys and a pack of gum, he threw the keys and jacket back to Phil.
Phil frowned as he caught them, “I thought you wanted the truck?” he asked.
“I do, but what goods a truck without a trucker, you`re coming with me.”
“No,” Trish gasped; “Daddy,” the twins cried.
“No way,” Phil said.
The man nonchalantly swung the gun towards his daughters, “Pick one?” he said.
“Wh-what?” was all Phil could manage.
“Come with me and no-one gets hurt,” the man said, “argue and one of them dies, keep arguing and everyone dies, your choice; so come with me, or choose which of your daughters dies first.”
Without looking at his girls Phil shrugged on the coat, “There that wasn’t so hard now was it?” the gunman said, jerking the gun towards the front hall door, “after you.”

A dark coloured panel van sat idling in the front yard, Phil saw another masked man sitting behind the wheel, “This way,” he said leading the gunman around the side of the house where the Kenworth was parked.
“Where we going?” he asked as they belted up.
“Just take a left as we exit,” the man said, half turning in his seat, partly leaning against the door, the gun lying in his lap pointed at Phil, “I`ll guide you from there.”

They`d been on the road for over forty minutes, the man occasionally giving instructions, “Left here, right here,” and Phil was just working himself up to trying to tackle his captor when, as if he`d read his mind, the man said, “Don’t be stupid, remember we have your family.”
Afterwards the cops would tell him that after he`d left, the others had hooded his family; cable tied their hands together and put them in the panel van, taking them to another location.

Ten minutes later the gunman said, “Pull in at the next entrance.”
The next entrance turned out to be a large gated farm, wide enough for two trucks to pass comfortably, as the driveway wound through a copse of trees, Phil saw another dark panel van pulled over to the side, a sentry post, he wondered.

A large farmhouse was on the other side of the trees, invisible to the road, backlit by what looked like a miniature sun.
“Drive around the rear,” the gunman said.
As he rounded the house Phil saw the source of all the light, more than a dozen portable spotlights were trained on six trailers, teams of men were working on them, running cables from the trailers into the cabs. Five of them had rigs already hooked up, only the last in-line was vacant, “That’s yours,” the gunman told him, pointing towards it.
After he`d backed into it, the rig jolting as the fifth wheel connected, out of habit he went to pull the keys from the ignition, “Leave em,” his captor said, Phil pulled his hand away.

Once they`d dismounted another gunman took him into the barn, “Over there,” he said, pointing his automatic weapon at a group of five men sitting in chairs, a sixth was vacant, they were staring at a large flat screen in front of them.
Phil recognised all of them, independent hauliers like him, and like him all family men, the knot in the pit of his stomach, the one he`d been desperately pretending wasn’t there, grew too big to ignore; Oh crap, he thought.

“Guys,” he said by way of greeting, they grunted in reply, none of them taking their eyes from the screen. It was only when he`d rounded the T.V. that Phil saw what was so captivating them, a group of five women, and perhaps a dozen kids of varying ages were seated staring silently back at him. He knew some of them, wives and kids of the men with him; as he watched shadows passed in front of the silent group and suddenly Trish and the girls stumbled into view, “No!” he cried, only Bill Thomson looked up, then returned his attention to the screen.

As the hours drifted by the group on the screen fragmented, women alternately soothed cantankerous children, scolded them, and finally in the early hours fussed them to sleep; all this they did silently, the T.V on mute. The men too became accustomed to, and then jaded by the image, fell into talking amongst themselves, they had all come separately to the same conclusion; terrorists.

Their trucks were being turned into bombs and they were the delivery boys, the only question was who were THEY.
Muslims? They didn’t seem like Muslims, too white for one thing. Bill suggested they were Russians, “Stands to reason,” he said, “They`ve already been poking around in the election, a couple of bombs in Manhattan and they`d swing it for Putin`s pal Trump.”
Steve Hodges, a Trump supporter, took issue with this idea, claiming that, “Trump was no commie stooge,” and it might have come to blows if the man who`d taken Phil captive hadn’t come along just then.

He dragged another chair across the floor, setting it down ten feet from the squabbling truckers, “Ahem!” he said loudly; they all looked around, suddenly silent. “We`re neither Muslims nor Russkies,” he said, then leaned forward, elbows resting on his thighs, “We`re patriots.”

“Patriots who`re sick and tired of watching the rich get richer feeding off the working stiffs, patriots who`re sick and tired of watching men and women having to work two and three jobs just to get by, patriots who think it`s about time We the People took our country back.”
He paused before going on, “I know what we did tonight seems a little like terrorism and for that I apologise, but it was necessary. We did it to protect you, from now on what you do, you do under duress, you can`t be prosecuted, you`re victims,” they could hear the smile under his mask.
“To quote the great Thomas Jefferson, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants”
“What about our families,” Phil asked, “Is it their blood you intend to spill?”
“If you do exactly as your told,” the masked man said, “if the cops clear the area, and they`ll have plenty of time,” “No-one’s blood, not even the tyrants will be shed, all we`re doing today is sending a wakeup call, We the People have had enough.”

They were herded back to their trucks, the Headman, as Phil had come to think of him, escorting him to his truck. “The GPS will guide you to your destination,” he told him, handing Phil a celphone, “when you get there I`ll call you on this, tell you what to do next. The Phones locked, you can`t make any calls, so don’t bother trying.” He pointed to a webcam that had been fitted up by the mirror, “We`ll be monitoring you all the way, so don’t try anything stupid, go straight there, Oh and stick to the speed limits okay?”
“And one last thing,” he said, “the bombs arm once you reach your destination, so stop, take out the keys and drop em on the floor, if anyone tries to move one of the trucks after that, BOOM,” he mimed an explosion with his fingers.

That had been an hour and a half ago; Phil swiped to answer, “Hello?”
“Put me on speaker,” the voice commanded, “And hand me to the nearest cop.”
As Phil got down from his cab he saw two uniforms approaching him, “Hey you can`t park that there,” one of them shouted over the din of impatient beeping horns. Phil, hands above his head in the surrender position, held out the phone, “It`s for you,” he said, over the cops shoulder he saw a sign, Wall Street.
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